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Friday, February 27, 2015

New Book - Leaving the Gypsy Life


Leaving the Gypsy Life can now be purchased from Amazon or Smashwords.

Farren, Devlin, Nicky and Autumn Coffey's forebears came to America during the great Irish Potato Famine in the 1840's, when Ireland lost half its population. Unlike other immigrants though, these Irish did not assimilate but banded together in their own self-contained communities, mostly in the south, still speaking a language called Shelta or Cant. They were called gypsies and while, not ethnically related to the Romany gypsies, they did live a gypsy lifestyle. Originally, they worked as tinkers or knackers (knackers bought horses too old to work for rendering). In modern times, Travelers turned to home repair jobs, such as roofing or asphalting,  or they sold tools. The Travelers were looked upon with suspicion by both law enforcement and "settled people" and, in truth, some of them were scammers (though certainly not all). They did shoddy work or sold cheap goods and were long gone by the time their victims realized they'd been conned.

Patrick Coffey was known as the King of the Pickpockets while his wife, Shayla, was a cutthroat pool player. They and their four children spent most of their lives on the road, traveling to fairs and festivals, sporting events and concerts, anywhere their marks could be found, returning to the Traveler village of Shay's Knob in South Carolina only occasionally. It was a free and unstructured life for kids whose parents were nonchalant disciplinarians.

When Farren was 13, Devlin was 11, Nicky was 10 and Autumn was 5, Pat and Shayla decided to break with the Travelers so their children could grow up as normal American kids. They bought a farm in the North Carolina mountains, Persimmon Bend, and confined their travel to the summer months.

It was a drastic lifestyle change for the Coffey kids - attending school for the first time, going to church every Sunday, sleeping in the same bed every night. Each adapted in a way dictated by their individual personalities. Farren, dark and impassive, excelled by flying beneath the radar screen of attention. Christian, brightly blonde and charismatic, won over his new neighbors with his charm. Nicky, shyer and slower than his older brothers, happily settled into a life that was predictable. Autumn was satisfied to be wherever her parents and her brothers were.

Coming of age while being torn from the world as you've always known it, to be thrust into a completely different life wasn't easy for the Coffey children. This is their story.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Outrage over 50 Shades of Grey

I've read several of the reviews about the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. The most commonly expressed reaction seemed to be outrage. Feminists were outraged at what they deemed an exploitation of women. Conservatives were outraged by what they saw as prurient sexuality. One male reviewer was outraged at Anastasia for being what he considered a manipulative, gold-digging bitch. BDSM enthusiasts were outraged because they thought the film wasn't an accurate portrayal of their particular fetish. Some viewers were outraged because the movie didn't show enough graphic sex.

I read all three books in the trilogy. I thought they were fun and Christian was hot...and no, I did not suffer any feminist angst about enjoying them, even though great literature they are definitely not.

I didn't figure I'd see the movie, mostly just because I don't do movies much, but also because I thought they made a terrible mistake casting Jamie Dornan as Christian. He didn't fit my fantasy of Christian at all.

Recently though, I had someone give him kudos for being a terrific actor. "He'll convince you," this person (a male) told me. And also, I guess all those reviews make me want to decide for myself what my take is.

As to all the larger questions brought up by the critics, we might want to ask, not just about Christian, but why so many of our favorite characters are less than lily-white heroes. What was the other movie that recently came out and set box office records? Oh, yeah. American Sniper, for God's sake. I'm good with Chris Kyle....some of my best fictional friends are snipers but it is telling that the movie isn't about American Missionary or American Teacher or American Doctor.

Look at so many of the best-selling books. Their main characters are assassins (Jack Reacher, phone home!) or spies or rogue cops. Of course, we are always thrown the bone of patriotism or revenge or defense of friends and/or family as the justification, but still, these are all men can kill without remorse.

And look at some of the television we love. Tony Soprano - the guys on Breaking Bad - Jack on 24, to whom torture is just doing what you gotta' do - to mention a few. Confession: I rarely watch television and haven't seen any of these but I have heard about them. I'm sure there are more.

So, I'll stick up for both the 50 Shades books and for the movie and say, lighten up, people. They are fiction. Writers have the right to write anything they want. It doesn't mean they are pro whatever that is. Writers who write about serial killers aren't pro serial killing. Producers have the right to produce whatever they want. And readers and viewers should have the right to read or watch whatever they want....without having to listen to lectures or being talked down to.